Thursday, June 16, 2011

Grandview Officials Reject Smoking Ban

By Seann McAnally

A crowd of people opposed to a smoking ban in Grandview helped sway the city's elected officials to reject a ban at the Board of Aldermen's regular session Tuesday night.  

Mayor Steve Dennis broke a 3-3 tie vote on a proposed smoking ban. Aldermen Jim Crain, Joe Runions, and Leonard Jones voted for a ban. Aldermen John Maloney, Annette Turnbaugh, and Brent Steeno voted against the ban. 
Steeno said he walked into the meeting prepared to vote for the ban, but after hearing from some two dozen members of the public, including bar owners, decided the ordinance needed some changes. 
"I'm 100 percent for a smoking ban in Grandview, I want to make that clear," Steeno said. "But I was elected to represent people, even if it's not a large group of people. I think they gave us some good reasons to take this back to the table. No one has swayed me but the people who came out tonight and spoke." 
The move was a shift from Steeno's stance at a work session just one week earlier. 
"I'm not convinced at all it will hurt businesses," he said on June 7. "The vast majority of people want it...it should have been done 10 years ago."
But on Tuesday, Steeno changed his mind and joined Turnbaugh and Maloney in voting against the ban. Both Turnbaugh and Maloney had previously said they favored a ban, but wanted bars to be exempt. Maloney had originally favored a total ban, but said he changed his mind after talking to bar owner.

Aldermen Runions and Jones have pushed for the ban. 

"All the surrounding communities have a ban," Runions said. "It's a terrible image for the city of Grandview. From the outside looking in, we look bad." 
Alderman Jim Crain said he wrestled with the issue, because he believes in small government. But in the end, he said, health and safety had to win out. He also said he didn't like the reputation Grandview was earning as a "smoking city." 
"I've been told people come here just so they can smoke," Crain said. "Quite frankly, I'm ashamed of that - to be known as the ashtray of Kansas City." 
He said his constituents were overwhelmingly in favor of a total ban, and eventually decided to vote in favor of the smoking ban.
Alderman Leonard Jones said he was for a total ban.
"Without a doubt, my constituents back a clean air ordinance," he said.

Some two dozen members of the public, including bar owners, showed up to the June 14 vote to speak against the ordinance.  
"I'm going to be homeless," said Mike Cherry, owner of Open Road Bar and Grill. "I'm not going to be able to get a credit card to feed my kids." 
Steeno said comments like that got to him. 
"We're dealing with real people and real lives," he said. "I want to take a little more time to think about it. Smoking is horrible, but I still think we should take more time."
Dennis said he was confident a new smoking ordinance would be back before the board, possibly within a few weeks, but one that had some form of exemption for bars.  
An early draft of the ordinance exempted bars that would install special HVAC systems, but that language was dropped from the final ordinance after bar owners protested such systems were too expensive. 
Crain opined that the state of Missouri would eventually pass a ban anyway that would make those new systems moot. 
Nonetheless, the Board of Aldermen will continue to discuss the issue and eventually take another vote on an ordinance.
"It will be a different ordinance," Mayor Dennis said. "We saw democracy at work tonight."

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